CBS Affils to Help Pay for Tourney

Dec 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Under the proposed NCAA Basketball Championship “value exchange program” announced last week, CBS affiliates will give the network 49 nonprime-time commercial spots per week-plus a collective $8 million per year to help defray the $6 billion CBS agreed to pay in 1999 for the right to revel in “March Madness” through at least 2013.
The deal came after an intense negotiation between the network and its affiliates. As part of the new pact, additional futures committees will be formed of network and affiliate representatives to explore partnerships in the areas of the digital spectrum, digital issues before Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, retransmission consent, and joint programming and marketing.
CBS pledged to consult the affiliate advisory board and futures committee before the network asks for more financial aid on programming acquisitions in the future. Moreover, the two affiliate body boards can “subject such requests to a full and comprehensive review in the event of significantly changed market conditions.”
Though an expanded affiliate futures committee endorsed the proposal (the first in the history of CBS’s long relationship with the NCAA), affiliate officers cannot dictate whether individual affiliates sign or don’t sign the NCAA amendment to their affiliate agreements.
If CBS does not get the OK of stations representing 95 percent of the TV homes in the country-which sources regard as highly unlikely-the network can walk away from the deal with options ranging from resuming conversations with the affiliate boards to playing hardball, the latter regarded as the least likely.
Under the agreement, the network will give its affiliates and owned-and-operated stations:
* One additional 30-second spot each week in “Without a Trace” and “Judging Amy,” which raises the prime-time inventory floor to 109 30-second spots throughout the prime-time schedule each week. In the event of scheduling or significant ratings change for either show, the extra sports would be positioned in comparably ranked prime-time shows.
* Three additional spots per week (one each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday) in “CBS Evening News With Dan Rather,” or, according to a list of key agreement points obtained by TelevisionWeek, “(any successor CBS evening news program), subject to adjustment for significant ratings change.”
* Extension of the exclusivity provisions in the NFL cost-sharing agreement (signed in 2002) through Dec. 31, 2006.
The nonprime 30-second spots the affiliates are giving back to the network include:
* Two per day in “The Early Show”
* Four per night on “Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn”
* One per night in “Late Show With David Letterman”
The agreement ends Dec. 31, 2014.
Neither network executives nor affiliate officers were available to talk about the ramifications of the deal after the announcement was made. Bob Lee, chairman of the CBS affiliate board and president and general manager of Schurz Communications-owned WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Va., said in a statement: “The negotiations were lengthy, but ultimately, both parties listened to and delivered on the needs of the other, guaranteeing the future of one of the most exciting sporting events of the year on CBS stations for many years to come. We’ve shared in a lot of success these past few years, and this new agreement once again demonstrates that CBS and its stations continue to set the standard for network-affiliate relations.”
“The NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship has played an important part of the CBS schedule for 21 consecutive years, as it will at least through the year 2013,” said CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.